In case you missed Hannes Stein’s 1999 First Things piece on the return of ancient gods: Don’t. It’s more relevant today than when it was published.
A few highlights:
After describing human sacrifice among the Aztecs, Stein points out: “The Aztecs were not exceptionally cruel; and only a fool would call them uncivilized or barbarian. For human sacrifice was precisely what defined the advanced civilizations—not only in America but also in the Middle East. Thus the Canaanites threw children into fiery furnaces to please Moloch; the Egyptians worshiped the sun and the goddess Hathor ‘who in the darkness crushes blood as if it were mash’; the Assyrians and Babylonians built the first cities around enormous slaughterhouses where priests sang praise to the stars before they cut the throats of well-built young men. How could the Israelites with their nomadic ancestor Abraham compete with this? The Philistines, by comparison a civilized race, prostrated themselves before their fish-god Dagon. They were immigrants from Crete, where the celestial bull demanded the lives of a dozen virgins every year.
“Human sacrifices were no cause for shame. They were not performed discreetly in a clandestine cellar but on top of a pyramid, in the temple, in front of a crowd. Lo and behold, we are prepared to give what is most dear to us! Look, we do not even spare our children! So voracious were the star gods. So great was the fear of the pagans. And thus it could have gone on forever according to the eternal cycle of nature, accompanied by the howl of shamans, the singsong of priests, and the roar of the slaughtered.”
The ancient gods returned in Nazism: “In the middle of civilized Christian Europe, however, the cult of Wotan and Ishtar rose again. Furnaces for Moloch were being erected. Heavenly signs were being watched and inter preted accordingly. Albert Speer recalled a Nazi rally on the eve of World War II: ‘For an hour the legendary Untersberg which lay vis-á-vis was flooded by a very strong polar light . . . . The end of the Gotterdämmerung could not have been staged more effectively. The faces and hands of each of us were colored red. Suddenly Hitler turned to one of his military aides: ‘This looks like a lot of blood. This time we will have to resort to violence.’”
And it continues in the undercurrent of Nazism that persists to the present. Stein sniffs out Nazi-inspired paganism not in the usual places (skinheads and white-supremacy groups), but much more widely: “Much more dangerous are those Nazi ideas that blossom secretly, whether in feminist temples, the gardens of New Age, the greenhouses of ideological vegetarianism, or the discreet cult that animal protectionists have erected around our four-legged friends. No, Nazism has not been victorious. But it has survived—incognito, as it were—under the guise of nonpolitical movements. It has become soft and tame and looks at the world with innocent blue eyes. Hardly ever does it take the floor under its real name and bare its fangs. . . . Everywhere in the former Soviet empire one finds an abundance of shamans with magic pendulums, soothsayers who talk to the dead, witches who tell fortunes.”
It invades the West under the guise of eco-liberalism: “the goddess of nature is the greatest of all deities. To honor her we enact complicated rituals of garbage separation, forge statistics about the world climate, ostracize environmental sinners, and pay indulgence to Greenpeace. . . . Today the secret, or not-so-secret, religion of a majority of continental Europeans is vaguely neo-pagan: it consists equally of gnostic, pantheistic, and deistic elements. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and of St. Paul) looks relatively poor in comparison. Even His own lobby leaves him in the lurch. Long ago a faith developed within European churches that has hardly anything in common with traditional Christianity. . . . Protestant ministers open themselves to astrological influences, light fumigating sticks, invite Hindu preachers, meditate, and learn from the various psychological cults.”
Read, study, be wise.